Iowa Writes

AMY WHITE
Blink


He couldn't live with us anymore. We kept him for a while after Mom died but he would get up in the middle of the night and try to leave the house. We could hear him going downstairs and putting his jacket on over his pajamas and going out the front door. He'd be so mad when we caught him. "Damn!" he'd say. He never said that before he got sick. We hid his car keys and that really made him mad so we gave him some old keys on a chain. One of them was the key to Roy's old Volkswagen and one of them was a skeleton key to one of our closets--just something for him to keep in his pocket. His car keys. He used to drive all the time, for his job, all over the state. He took us on car trips every summer, thousands of miles across the country. He led tanks into France and got the Bronze Star and the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. And now he can't go to the grocery store and come back with what I asked him to get.

He couldn't live with us anymore. We kept him for a while after Mom died but he would get up in the middle of the night and try to leave the house. We could hear him going downstairs and putting his jacket on over his pajamas and going out the front door. He'd be so mad when we caught him. "Damn!" he'd say. He never said that before he got sick. We hid his car keys and that really made him mad so we gave him some old keys on a chain. One of them was the key to Roy's old Volkswagen and one of them was a skeleton key to one of our closets--just something for him to keep in his pocket. His car keys. He used to drive all the time, for his job, all over the state. He took us on car trips every summer, thousands of miles across the country. He led tanks into France and got the Bronze Star and the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. And now he can't go to the grocery store and come back with what I asked him to get.

I want to tell everybody at the nursing home: look, you didn't know him, but he was so great. He took care of us. He gave us stuff. He was our dad.

Once last spring he walked out the door and down the street and eight blocks to the highway and went right into Gary's restaurant and sat down. Of course Gary came out and brought him the day's special and sat down and ate with him and then drove him back to the nursing home. The staff was pretty upset about it, thinking about what could have happened, but I thought: Yes! Way to go, Pop! Good for you!

In the special Alzheimer's unit there is no escaping. There are ankle bracelets and alarms and aides to guard the doors.

I'd want to escape too if I was in the Alzheimer's unit. When I go up there, I stay as long as I can stand it and then I make sure he is distracted or asleep when I make my getaway. Down that hall past the nurse's station and through the lobby and out the double doors and oh, God! I'm outta there! Free! I don't care if it's a hundred degrees below zero or a hundred degrees above. I can breathe real air. I can see the sky. I can get in my car and drive home and see Billy and Roy and make supper and not be there anymore.

I'd rather get cancer. My mom fought cancer for twenty years, got down to eighty pounds and lost half a lung and she was so sick and it hurt her so much, but she was still my mom. Asking me, how was I doing? Telling me I looked so nice. Cancer is awful but I swear I think I'd rather get that than Alzheimer's. You'd think that people with Alzheimer's wouldn't know what was happening to them, and maybe they don't know exactly, but they sure don't like it. It makes them really mad. They forget the words for everything. The last time I was with Pop, he said, "Where is your answer?" And I thought, I don't know. Where is my answer? What is my question? What does he mean? I thought he must mean something else, but maybe he didn't. I kept trying to figure out what he was saying, and I asked him, "Do you mean where is Billy? Or Roy? Do you mean Mom? What do you mean, where is my answer? Do you mean, where is my car?" It wore him out, all those questions, but I didn't want to let it go. I wanted to talk to him. Like we used to talk to each other.

I told Roy, just smother me with my pillow if I get this stuff. If you get it first, I will definitely smother you.

I've gotten to know one woman pretty well because she visits her husband in the Alzheimer's unit. She says she always watches his eyes when she talks to him and they look cloudy or foggy or something. It's like that with Alzheimer's patients. Like they don't really see you. But if you keep watching them and talking and touch their hand or their arm or their face--if you can get their attention somehow--they blink, and that clears their eyes. Then for a minute, they see you--before they cloud over again. The nurses all say Pop's calm when I'm with him--he thinks I'm my mom. I hold his hand and we just sit there and I want to say: Come on, Pop. Blink. You can do it. Just blink.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


AMY WHITE

Amy White is a playwright from Mt. Vernon. Her play, "The Knitting Lesson," was produced by the Mt. Vernon/Lisbon Community Theatre in 2001. She performed a slightly longer version of "Blink" at Riverside Theatre, Iowa City, at their 2003 "Walking the Wire" monologue show.

This page was first displayed
on February 27, 2006

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